There are so many rich, incredible facts surrounding the World War II-era Netherlands American Cemetery near Maastricht. It lies along a highway that saw some of history’s most memorable names – Caesar, Charlemagne, and Napoleon, just to name a few. In the 20th Century, Hitler’s Wehrmacht also used the road to capture the Netherlands and Belgium and bring them into the Nazi Reich.
What rests there now is a memorial and cemetery to those who fought to liberate the country from the grip of the Nazi war machine. The locals have never forgotten who died there and, from the looks of things, they never will.
The cemetery is meticulously well kept. A memorial tower overlooks a reflecting pool and at the base of the tower is the stature of a mother grieving over her lost son. Elsewhere on the grounds is a list of the battles and operations fought by U.S. servicemen during World War II, the names of those 8,301 men buried on the grounds, and the names of those 1,722 who went missing while fighting in the Netherlands.
Among the honored dead are seven Medal of Honor recipients and a Major General. In all, it’s a remarkable site with historic significance. The most significant thing about the 65-acre Netherlands American Cemetery is who takes care of each American gravestone.
Since 1945, the Dutch people in the area have adopted individual graves, keeping the site clean and maintaining the individual memorials. They ensure that flowers adorn their adopted grave and that the name and deeds of the American interred there are never forgotten. They actually research the entire life of their adopted fallen GI. Some of them adopt more than one.
“Ever since the end of WWII, people have adopted the graves of these men and women out of a deeply heartfelt gratitude for the sacrifices that they made for our freedom,” local Sebastiaan Vonk told an Ohio newspaper. “They truly are our liberators and heroes.”
The American Cemetery is one of the largest in the world. Its upkeep and memory are so important to the locals whose families saw the horrors of Nazi occupation. Even those separated by the 1945 liberation of the Netherlands by a generation or more still hold those names dear and are taking their remembrance project one step further – remembering their face.
A new effort, The Faces of Margraten, seeks to collect photos of the men who died or went missing in liberating the Netherlands from Nazi occupation. On Dutch Memorial Day, the group displays personal photos of more than 3,000 of those interred in the cemetery, holding an event that “brings visitors face-to-face with their liberators.”
Afghanistan is sometimes referred to as “Russia’s Vietnam.” The decade-long occupation cost the Soviet Union a lot of men and money but wielded very little in return. In 1978, the Soviets backed a pro-communist coup lead by Nur Mohammad Taraki against the government in power in Afghanistan. However, in 1979, Hafizullah Amin, a Muslim leader who did not look at the Soviet influence with a good eye, staged a counter-coup, deposing Taraki. In retaliation, in December 1979, the Soviets sent troops and tanks into Afghanistan. They overthrew the government and killed Amin, replacing him with a KGB-trained man named Babrak Karmal.
After some early victories, the Soviets anticipated a quick triumph. However, they faced relentless resistance from some of the locals, particularly the Muslims. The Afghan rebels declared a jihad (a “holy war”), against the communist government and the Soviets supporting it. The mujahideen, “holy warriors” who lead the jihad began a guerilla-style campaign against the Soviets, harassing and sabotaging them at every turn. They were armed and financed by countries from the other side of the Iron Curtain, such as the United States and Britain, as well as Muslim countries sympathetic to a government closer to their own beliefs. China, despite being a communist country as well, also chose to side with the mujahideen.
The invaders struggled to contain the well-armed rebels. According to some estimations, the Soviets could have lost as many as 15,000 soldiers during the decade-long invasion. The cost of lives and resources brought important division in the Soviet Communist Party at the time. The invasion also brought the already tense relationship between the Soviet Union and the USA near breaking point.
After a decade of frustrating fighting, the Soviet Union, incapable of truly seizing power in Afghanistan, decided to recall its troops. The withdrawal started in April 1988 and spread over several months. The last Russian soldiers left in February 1989.
Although this was a notable win for the mujahideen, peace still eluded the country. The Soviet Union still supported the communist government through financial means, helping them resist the rebels. It led to a long and bloody civil war. The Soviets only withdrew their support in 1991, after internal political turmoil forced them to cut off the aids to their allies. By spring 1992, the Muslim fighters were able to overrun the weakened Afghan army, storm Kabul, and overthrown the government.
However, Afghanistan was unable to receive much-needed peace. Whether differences of beliefs or desire for personal power, the various mujahideen factions began turning one against the other. Without a common enemy, they perpetuated the ongoing civil war. The conflict gave rise to the Taliban in 1994, a military organization of radical Muslim students. They were unhappy that the Muslim law had not been established throughout the country after the fall of the communist government. The group, in possession of many weapons supplied by various Western and Middle-Eastern countries during the Soviet invasion, was able to progressively conquer territories. By 1996, they controlled about three-quarters of the country and established the Sharia law in all the territories they controlled, establishing the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. By 1998, they controlled over 90% of the country.
Echoes of the past
In 2000, the United Nations Security Council denounced the strict application of Sharia Law that infringed on people’s basic human rights and accused the Taliban of radicalizing and training terrorists, issuing important sanctions against their government. Then, in October 2001, in retaliation for the 9/11 terror attacks, the USA joined forces with the Afghan resistance and invaded Afghanistan to try and root out terrorism. By the end of 2001, the Taliban government had been overthrown and most of the country was under the control of the coalition. After losing their last stronghold, Kalahar, the Taliban dispersed. However, they never surrendered.
Moving factions of the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and ISIL have since worked to harass and sabotage the Afghan government and the American troops supporting the anti-terrorist effort. Pakistan, accused of supporting the terrorist organizations, was also invaded.
However, guerrilla fighting presents many challenges, making it difficult to achieve a definite victory. The metamorphosing, secretive structure, and foreign financing of the various extremist organization make it difficult to eradicate them. When the Soviet Union pulled out of Afghanistan, they inadvertently created the modern terrorist.
Feature image: Russia Informational news Agency via Wikimedia Commons
Twenty-four days into the longest government shutdown in US history, the strain is being felt acutely by the US Coast Guard, as some 42,000 active-duty members are preparing to miss their first paycheck on Jan. 15, 2019.
In a Jan. 10, 2019 letter, Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray said that without an appropriation or funding measure, “the Coast Guard will not be able to meet the next payroll,” an extreme disruption that officials averted in late December 2018 by moving funds around.
“Let me assure you your leadership continues to do everything possible, both internal and external to the Service, to ensure we can process your pay as soon as we receive an appropriation,” Ray added. “However, I do not know when that will occur.”
(The 621st Contingency Response Wing)
The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps are funded through the Defense Department, which got it its fiscal year 2019 budget in the fall, and none of their troops are missing a paycheck.
But the Coast Guard, while technically a military branch, is funded through the Homeland Security Department, funding for which has been held up amid a dispute between President Donald Trump and Congress over .7 billion Trump wants to start construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border.
A work-around secured funding for Coast Guard payroll on Dec. 31, 2018, paying the service’s active-duty members and reservists who drilled before funding lapsed, but service leaders have said it cannot be repeated. Civilian employees are unpaid since Dec. 21, 2018.
Active-duty members deemed essential have continued working, as have about 1,300 civilian workers. Most of the service’s 8,500 civilian employees have been furloughed, and pay and benefits for some 50,000 retired members and employees could be affected.
US Coast Guard ice-rescue team members participate in training on Lake Champlain at Coast Guard Station Burlington, Burlington, Vermont, Feb. 17, 2017.
(US Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Sarah Mattison)
In the Coast Guard’s 14th district, which covers 12.2 million square miles of the Pacific Ocean, 835 active-duty personnel and some civilians are still working from bases in Hawaii and Guam and detachments in Japan and Singapore, carrying out “essential operations” such as search-and-rescue and law enforcement, 14th district spokeswoman Chief Sara Muir told Stars and Stripes.
Between Dec. 21, 2018, and Jan. 7, 2019, the district handled 46 cases, including two major ones, Muir said. On Jan. 13, 2019, Coast Guard personnel medevaced a crew member off a fishing vessel 80 miles north of Kauai.
Other operations, like recreational-vessel safety checks and issuing or renewing licenses and other administrative work, has been curtailed. The service has said vendors who provide fuel and other services also won’t be paid until funding resumes.
As the shutdown drags on, communities around the country have mustered to support Coast Guard members and families, particularly junior members, many of whom lack savings.
Crew members from Coast Guard Station Sand Key, Florida, take part in survival swim training, Dec. 8, 2017.
(US Coast Guard photo Petty Officer 1st Class Michael De Nyse)
On Jan. 12, 2019, dozens of northern Michigan residents gathered for a silent auction and donation event, with funds raised going toward expenses like rent, medical bills, and heating for service members and their families.
“Whenever you cannot predict when you’re gonna get your next paycheck, but you know exactly when the bills are due, it causes a lot of stress,” Kenneth Arbogast, a retired Coast Guard chief petty officer, told UpNorthLive.com. “And for younger members, young families, that’s really a challenge.”
On Jan. 13, 2019, more than 600 service members, including 168 families, gathered in Alameda, California, for a giveaway organized by the East Bay Coast Guard Spouses Club, providing them with everything from fresh fruit to diapers.
“It’s worrisome. I have to put food in my family’s belly,” said Coast Guard mechanic Kyle Turcott, who is working without pay. “Ain’t no telling, we may not get paid until the first of next month,” added Nathan Knight, another service member.
The organizers said they were working on another food drive and could host another distribution event this week.
Coast Guard cutter Munro passes under the Golden Gate Bridge on its way into the Bay Area, April 6, 2017.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Adam Stanton)
On Jan. 14, 2019, Thomas Edison State University in New Jersey announced that Coast Guard students affected by the shutdown would be able to defer payments until tuition assistance was available again. The school has 135 active-duty students — 27 of whom are registered for February 2019.
In Rhode Island, Roger Williams University said that on Jan. 15, 2019, it would offer free dining-hall meals to active-duty Coast Guard members and their families from Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts.
Navy Federal Credit Union, which serves military members, veterans, and civilian Defense Department employees, has said it would offer no-interest loans up to ,000 to workers affected by the shutdown, with repayment automatically deducted from paychecks once direct-deposit resumes.
In his Jan. 10, 2019 letter, Ray also said that the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance Board had increased the interest-free loans it was offering, focusing on junior members, allowing those with dependents to get up to id=”listicle-2626058172″,000.
Crewmembers of the Coast Guard cutter Mohawk and Tactical Law Enforcement Team South on a self-propelled semi-submersible, July 3, 2018.
(US Coast Guard photo)
In Texas, Coast Guard noncommissioned officers have raised money through local chapters of the Coast Guard Petty Officers Association. In early January 2019, they brought in food to cook at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base, encouraging younger service members to take food home.
Erin Picou, whose husband is a chief petty officer with 17 years experience, said her family could cover the most important bills, but the mortgage for their house, on which they spent their savings six months ago, is less certain.
“I can’t speak for them, but I myself think my husband has worked his ass off. He needs to get a paycheck,” Picou added. “It’s hard to focus on search and rescue if you don’t know whether your kids and family are going to have a roof over their head and food on the table.”
Measures have been introduced to Congress to ensure pay for Coast Guard members. However, Ray said, “I cannot predict what course that legislation may take.”
In a Facebook post on Jan. 13, 2019, Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told service members the branch was continuing “228 years of military service around the globe,” including preparations for yearly ice-clearing in Antarctica, maritime-security operations in the Middle East, and drug interdictions in Central and South America.
“While our Coast Guard workforce is deployed, there are loved ones at home reviewing family finances, researching how to get support, and weighing childcare options — they are holding down the fort,” Schultz wrote.
“Please know that we are doing everything we can to support and advocate for you while your loved one stands the watch,” he added. “You have not, and will not, be forgotten.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
If you know a thing or two about military life, then you’ve probably heard of military working dogs. These faithful animals bring a lot to the table for American troops. That being said, they aren’t the only members of the animal kingdom who chip in to help. In fact, the Navy has used a number of marine mammals to assist in essential missions.
The United States Navy’s marine mammal program has been around for almost six decades now. These dolphins and sea lions serve under the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 1. Here’s a rundown of these Marine Mammal Systems, listed by designation.
Dolphins that specialize in deep-water mine countermeasures are designated the Mk 4 Marine Mammal System. The dolphins pictured here are being deployed for the de-mining of New Caledonia, an allied base in World War II.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Cohen A. Young)
Mk 4 Dolphins
These dolphins specialize in locating and neutralizing mines moored in deep water. When you think about it, it makes sense for dolphins to assist in this mission. Their echolocation is a form of sonar, which is the primary means of locating mines.
A Mk 5 is photographed during a retrieval exercise. Unlike a salvage company, it won’t cost you an arm and a leg – just some fish.
Mk 5 Sea Lions
These sea lions are used for the retrieval of submerged objects. Unlike human divers, sea lions can dive deep without suiting up for the mission. What’s more is that these highly-trained mammals will happily hand over whatever they find in exchange for a fishy treat.
This Mk 6 Marine Mammal System looks friendly and playful… unless you’re an enemy swimmer. Then he’ll take you down without remorse, thinking only of the extra fish he’ll get as a reward.
(U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class Wes Eplen)
Mk 6 Dolphins and Sea Lions
We all do our best to keep intruders out of our yards. Well, the Navy does the same for their harbors. And for good reason: Enemy swimmers can do damage — just ask the crew of USNS Card (T-AKV 40). The dolphins and sea lions in this system are intended to find and help detain enemy divers. The water is their natural element; intruders stand little chance of escaping.
Mk 7 Marine Mammal Systems handle the shallow-water mine countermeasures mission.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mr. John F. Williams)
Mk 7 Dolphins
There are some places laden with mines that drones or ships simply can’t reach. In order to best protect troops and technology, these dolphins use their sonar and agility to clear the way. After all, their natural ability is arguably superior to current mine-detecting technologies.
These dolphins find safe lanes for landing craft and amphibious assault vehicles to use for delivering Marines ashore.
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Elena Pence)
Mk 8 Dolphins
When storming a beach, you first need to find a safe lane for your landing craft and amphibious assault vehicles to travel within. These dolphins are specially trained to use their echo-location techniques to find a safe canal.
Now, before you get up in arms, know that these dolphins and sea lions tend to live longer than their wild counterparts. They also get excellent care from veterinarians and experienced trainers throughout. While the Navy is working on underwater drones, the fact is, these Marine Mammal Systems have served well for almost six decades and will likely continue to serve alongside sailors and Marines for a long time yet.
Boeing shares have soared 34% this year, contributing 812 points of the index’s 2,807-point gain so far this year. Without Boeing’s contribution, the index would be up about 8% YTD.
(Bespoke Investment Group)
The index’s outsized gain is driven by Boeing having the heaviest weighting, 11.4%, among the Dow’s 30 stocks. The Dow is a price-weighted index, meaning the company with the highest share price, Boeing, has the heaviest weighting. Boeing’s stock price is the highest in the index and the only one over 0.
Unlike the Dow, the SP 500 is weighted by market cap, meaning Microsoft has the heaviest weighting. By comparison, Boeing commands the 15th biggest weighting of SP 500 names.
Unless you’re an avid shooter, there tends to be only a handful of ammunition types a person can list off the top of their heads, and even fewer if we’re talking specifically about rifles. Although there’s a long list of projectiles to be fired from long guns, the ones that tend to come to mind for most of us are almost always the same: 5.56 and 7.62, or to be more specific, 5.56×45 vs. 7.62×39.
National militaries all around the world rely on these two forms of ammunition thanks to their range, accuracy, reliability, and lethality, prompting many on the internet to get into long, heated debates about which is the superior round. Of course, as is the case with most things, the truth about which is the “better” round is really based on a number of complicated variables — not the least of which being which weapon system is doing the firing and under what circumstances is the weapon being fired.
This line of thinking is likely why the United States military employs different weapon systems that fire a number of different kinds of rounds. Of course, when most people think of Uncle Sam’s riflemen, they tend to think of the 5.56mm round that has become ubiquitous with the M4 series of rifles that are standard issue throughout the U.S. military. But, a number of sniper platforms, for instance, are actually chambered in 7.62×51 NATO.
So if both the 5.56×45 vs. 7.62×39 rounds are commonly employed by national militaries… determining which is the superior long-range round for the average shooter can be a difficult undertaking, and almost certainly will involve a degree of bias (in other words, in some conditions, it may simply come down to preference).
For the sake of brevity, let’s break the comparison down into three categories: power, accuracy, and recoil. Power, for the sake of debate, will address the round’s kinetic energy transfer on target, or how much force is exerted into the body of the bad guy it hits. Accuracy will be a measure of the round’s effective range, and recoil will address how easy it is to settle the weapon back down again once it’s fired.
The NATO 5.56 round was actually invented in the 1970s to address concerns about the previous NATO standard 7.62×51. In an effort to make a more capable battle-round, the 5.56 was developed using a .223 as the basis, resulting in a smaller round that could withstand higher pressures than the old 7.62 NATO rounds nations were using. The new 5.56 may have carried a smaller projectile, but its increased pressure gave it a flatter trajectory than its predecessors, making it easier to aim at greater distances. It was also much lighter, allowing troops to carry more rounds than ever before.
The smaller rounds also dramatically reduced felt recoil, making it easier to maintain or to quickly regain “sight picture” (or get your target back into your sights) than would have been possible with larger caliber rounds.
The 7.62x39mm round is quite possibly the most used cartridge on the planet, in part because the Soviet AK-47 is so common. These rounds are shorter and fatter than the NATO 5.56, firing off larger projectiles with a devastating degree of kinetic transfer. It’s because of this stopping power that many see the 7.62 as the round of choice when engaging an opponent in body armor. The 7.62x39mm truly was developed as a general-purpose round, limiting its prowess in a sniper fight, however. The larger 7.62 rounds employed in AK-47s come with far more recoil than you’ll find with a 5.56, making it tougher to land a second and third shot with as much accuracy, depending on your platform.
So, returning to the metrics of power, accuracy, and recoil, the 7.62 round wins the first category, but the 5.56 takes the second two, making it the apparent winner. However, there are certainly some variables that could make the 7.62 a better option for some shooters. The platform you use and your familiarity with it will always matter when it comes to accuracy within a weapon’s operable range.
When firing an AR chambered in 5.56, and an AK chambered in 7.62, it’s hard not to appreciate the different ideologies that informed their designs. While an AR often feels like a precision weapon, chirping through rounds with very little recoil, the AK feels brutal… like you’re throwing hammers at your enemies and don’t care if any wood, concrete, or even body armor gets in the way. There are good reasons to run each, but for most shooters, the 5.56 round is the better choice for faraway targets.
It’s official: the U.S. Air Force will call its new HH-60W combat rescue helicopter the “Jolly Green II.”
Standing alongside combat-search-and-rescue pilots from past and current conflicts, Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett made the announcement during the opening of the Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida, Thursday.
“Reviving the Jolly Green name honors our combat search and rescue crews past and present,” Barrett said on social media following her speech. “In the hands of our airmen, the HH-60W ensures the rescue community can perform their duties better than ever,” she said.
The longstanding motto of the rescue community is, “These things we do that others may live.” The name Jolly Green — which the CSAR community has adopted as its trademark alongside green feet stamps on the aircraft — dates back to the Vietnam War era when American pilots flew the HH-3E.
While pilots today will stamp the sides of the helicopter with green feet to commemorate their own missions, the origin of the green feet is a nod to the HH-3E helicopter, also known as the Jolly Green Giant, which left fat imprints when landing in Vietnam’s rice patties and grass fields, according to the service.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen David Goldfein on Thursday stressed the service’s need for HH-60W, especially given his own experience. As a lieutenant colonel, Goldfein was shot down in his F-16CJ fighter jet over Serbia in 1999 during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, and subsequently rescued by CSAR units.
“The Jolly Green gives us extended range and better capability,” Goldfein said on Twitter following the announcement. “I was grateful for a ride out of enemy territory when I needed it and I can tell you first-hand that this aircraft will save lives.”
In July, the service began its first tests of the Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky-made HH-60W — based on the UH-60M Black Hawk — which is meant to replace its current HH-60G Pave Hawk fleet. Its missions also include “civil search and rescue, medical evacuation, disaster response, humanitarian assistance, security cooperation/aviation advisory, NASA space flight support and CSAR command and control,” the service said.
Current 1980s-era HH-60G models are capable of flying low, and have a retractable in-flight refueling probe and internal auxiliary fuel tanks that allow for better range and loiter time during rescue missions.
The HH-60W doubles the internal fuel capacity without using the auxiliary fuel tanks, and also increases the flight hours. The aircraft also has improved avionics, navigation, communications and an enhanced software network, plus better defensive measures and armored plating, according to the company.
Through its fiscal 2019 and 2020 budgets, Congress gave the Air Force the authority to procure 22 of the Jolly Green II. The first two units to be fielded with the aircraft will be the 41st Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, and the 512th Rescue Squadron at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, officials said.
The service plans to purchase up to 113 of the rotary-wing aircraft.
Military MWR provides many benefits, but one of the greatest is access to world-class golf courses. With well-manicured fairways, nice practice facilities, and cheap green fees, it’s hard to beat the value. Many military courses have epic views and are ranked along with private courses among the best in the world, plus they offer programs for the whole family.
Walking the beautiful fairways on any base is a great way to unwind after a tough day at work, on the weekends, or simply as an outing with family and friends. The military has excellent golf courses around the globe, no matter what time of year it is.
Here are the top courses to play in each season:
Fall: Eisenhower Golf Club, Air Force Academy (Colorado Springs, Colorado)
Autumn is a fantastic time to visit Colorado Springs. With little rain and strong sun at an altitude of 7,000 feet, you can enjoy the fall colors and mountain views from the Academy’s two incredible 18-hole courses.
Eisenhower’s 7,500-yard Blue Course was designed by world-famous golf architect Robert Trent Jones. At slightly more than 6,500 yards, the Silver Course is shorter but still very challenging. Stay the weekend and play both.
Winter: Admiral Baker Golf Course (San Diego, California)
With very comfortable temperatures in the 60’s and little rain, San Diego is a great winter golf destination. The area has several outstanding military golf courses, but Admiral Baker, an independent facility that is not on a military base, is one you can’t miss.
The North Course is the more famous of the two 18-hole courses, but let’s be honest, winter golfing with warm weather is a win either way.
Spring: Fort Belvoir Golf Club (Fort Belvoir, Virginia)
Spring is one of the best times of year to visit the Washington, DC area, especially if you can catch the cherry blossoms — usually in early April. With average temperatures around 70 degrees, it’s the perfect weather for golf.
Fort Belvoir has two 18-hole courses, one of which was designed in part by the aforementioned golf architect Robert Trent Jones. This club is a must-play if you are in the DC area during spring.
The Pacific Northwest is one of the best places in the U.S. for summer golf. Bright, sunny days are common throughout July and August, but temperatures are comfortable with low humidity. A day on the greens is the perfect way to enjoy the short Washington summer.
Whispering Firs is a challenging 6,646-yard course that will take you through beautiful wooded areas, with large mature trees and receptive greens. Doglegs and changing elevation abound on this beautifully-designed course.
Year-round: Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course, Marine Corps Base Hawaii (Oahu)
Oahu is a year-round golf destination with averages temperatures in the 80’s. The Kaneohe Klipper is one of the top military courses in the world and a must-play.
The front nine offer beautiful mountain vistas, while the back nine boast spectacular coastline views that earn this course its international reputation. Total course length is 6,559 yards.
The signature hole is #13, a par 4, 471 yards, that hugs the coastline and can be particularly challenging on a windy day. Test your skills on this course, and don’t forget your camera.
On May 12, 2018, two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor jets were launched from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, to intercept and visually identify two Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers flying off Alaska, north of the Aleutian Islands, in the ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone).
ADIZs may extend beyond a country’s territory to give the country more time to respond to possible hostile aircraft: in fact any aircraft flying inside these zones without authorization may be identified as a threat and treated as an enemy aircraft, leading to an interception and VID (Visual Identification) by fighter aircraft.
According to NORAD, the Russians were “intercepted and monitored by the F-22s until the bombers left the ADIZ along the Aleutian Island chain heading west,” and, as usual, remained in international airspace.
Nothing special then, considered that these close encounters occur every now and then, as reported in 2017.
What’s a bit more interesting this time is the fact that the Russian Air Force has released some details and footage about the training activities conducted by its long range bombers. During the last round of “winter period” training, five long range missions were launched involving strategic missile carriers Tu-160 and Tu-95MS, as well as long-range Tu-22M3 bombers: these flights brought the Russian aircraft over the Pacific, the Arctic Ocean, Japan, East China, Black, Barents, Norwegian, Northern, Bering and Okhotsk Seas.
On May 12, 2018 mission off Alaska, the F-22s (that were filmed while shadowing the Bear, as the clip below shows) remained with the Tu-95s for 40 minutes.
“As for the last such flight, only one pair of US Air Force F-22 fighters have escorted our aircraft. Just one, it says that a certain effect of surprise has worked. Usually, during the execution of such flights, we are escorted to five or seven aircraft, while escorts are carried out by fighters of various states. I want to note that during this flight no one intercepted anyone. US Air Force planes accompanied our aircraft in the airspace over neutral waters. The pilots acted in the air correctly. No violations were recorded,” said commander of long-range aviation Lieutenant-General Sergei Kobylash in an article published by Zvezda.
While it’s somehow hard to believe that the large strategic bombers caught someone by surprise, the video is interesting, especially the short part where you can see a pair of F-22s from the window of a Russian Bear.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
The U.S. Air Force has officially kicked off its adversary air contract initiative by awarding seven companies a total of $6.4 billion to outsource its assault and combat training.
The service on Oct. 18, 2019, issued the collective, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract to Air USA Inc.; Airborne Tactical Advantage Company LLC, known as ATAC, a subset of Textron Airborne Solutions; Blue Air Training; Coastal Defense; Draken International; Tactical Air Support, known as TacAir; and Top Aces Corp. for Air Combat Command’s aggressor training, according to a Defense Department announcement.
“Contractors will provide complete contracted air support services for realistic and challenging advanced adversary air threats and close-air support threats,” the Defense Department said.
The Air Force for years has looked for a helping hand to fill the enemy, “red air” gap, which would in turn allow for more of its active-duty combat forces to attain air-to-air training on the friendly, or “blue air,” side.
Draken International’s L-159E.
The training comes down to a battle of simulated attacks for the purpose of enhancing tactics and techniques should pilots find themselves in an aerial dogfight, or having to stave off the enemy. The simulated flights would also include close-air support to enhance Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) training for ground operators.
During the onset of the fighter pilot shortage in 2016, Air Force officials signaled a renewed interest in contracting the work, a cheaper alternative than depleting the service’s budget for training and flight hours to act as the enemy.
“In a perfect world, we’d have the resources to maintain the aggressor squadrons that we used to have and kind of do it in house with modernized threats,” Gen. Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command, told reporters during the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in 2017. “In the world we’re living in now, we’re limited in personnel and end strength.
Two French F-1 Mirages prepare to taxi and take off from Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson)
“If we can bring on some contract red air, then not only do we get some dedicated people to train against, we also reduce the amount of time that our crews are spending at a zero-sum budget for flight hours pretending to be somebody else instead of training for their primary skills,” he added.
A number of the red air companies have been expanding their aggressor fleets. For example, Draken currently has A-4 Skyhawks and L-159 “Honey Badgers” and recently purchased Dassault Mirage F1s and Atlas Cheetah fighters to add to its inventory. In 2017, ATAC bought upgraded F1 fighters from France; the company flew its first Mirage in August.
The training will be performed at “multiple locations across the Combat Air Force (CAF),” the DoD said. The Air Force has estimated that roughly 40,000 to 50,000 hours of flight time is needed to support aggressor air at a dozen bases across the U.S.
The Air Force will use fiscal 2020 operations and maintenance (OM) funds in the amount of .8 million toward the effort, set to run through October 2024, the announcement states.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
With the help of Pearl Harbor survivors, Janet Glen Tomlinson created Home of the Brave Tours Museum, a one-of-a-kind WWII Military Base Tour along with the largest private collection of 1940’s memorabilia in the Pacific. As curators of this extensive collection, the Tomlinsons have received numerous awards and accolades for their work in educating the public about the rich heritage, sacrifices and traditions of the United States military.
The Home of the Brave Museum is a one-of-a-kind treasure trove of artifacts, stories, and memories of our American Military that fought to save our country and liberate the world during our darkest hours. The extensive collection exists to preserve wartime legacies, as well as to honor the sacrifice and victory of our nation’s great servicemen and women.
Their goal is to maintain the extensive collection and expand the property into an interactive learning center to further promote awareness, gratitude, and documentation of America’s military heritage for public interest and educational purposes.
Last year, the revenue needed to operate the museum was cut off due to the termination of their exclusive military base tour. This was due to security concerns from Homeland Security increased competition from larger tour operators who offer larger commission structures to the sales agents selling and promoting Pearl Harbor Tours. The five star “mom pop” tour operation just couldn’t compete with the “big boys.”
The Foundation offers exciting and engaging ways to delve into America’s military legacy as well as educational (hand-on history) and entertainment opportunities for school groups, senior centers, local, military, and island visitors.
“Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.” – President Harry S. Truman
The next time you are browsing the aisles at Walmart, just think to yourself that the son of Sam Walton, the founder of the retail giant, was involved in special operations during the Vietnam War. Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Studies and Observation Group — or MACV-SOG — is a name so bland that it shielded the true nature of their top-secret work into deniable areas like Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam. How did the 11th richest man in the world intertwine his legacy into one of the most notorious special operations units in U.S. military history?
John Thomas Walton was born in Newport, Arkansas, the second of three sons, and excelled at athletics. He was a standout football star on their public high school football team and was more of a student of life than academics. His father, Sam, opened Walton’s 5&10 in Bentonville, a small business in a small town known for its variety of hunting seasons. Walton had a modest upbringing and after only two years of college he dropped out to enlist in the U.S. Army. “When I was at Wooster [The College of Wooster in Ohio], there were a lot of people talking about the war in the dorm rooms, but I didn’t think they understood it,” Walton said.
Walton enlisted in the Army and became a Green Beret (Army Special Forces). “I figured if you’re going to do something, you should do it the best you can,” he said during an interview with Andy Serwer for Fortune magazine. Assigned to MACV-SOG after the Tet Offensive in 1968, Walton was stationed at FOB 1 in Phu Bai where members of Strike Team Louisiana conducted deep penetration reconnaissance missions. John Stryker Meyer, a teammate and friend of Walton’s, wrote, “In August of ’68, on one such mission, Walton’s six-man recon team was surrounded and overrun by enemy soldiers.” The firefight became so intense that the team leader, William “Pete” Boggs, called an airstrike (napalm) directly on their own position to break contact.
Extracted from page 119 of “On The Ground” by John Stryker Meyer and John E. Peters.
“That strike killed one team member, wounded the team leader and severed the right leg of the Green Beret radio operator Tom Cunningham Jr., of Durham, N.H. Another team member was wounded four times by AK-47 gunfire by an enemy soldier whom Walton killed,” Meyer wrote. As the team’s medic, Walton was responsible in setting up a triage point to tend to the casualties. He applied a tourniquet to Cunningham’s leg that had begun to hemorrhage. The tourniquet ultimately saved his life, but he later lost his leg. Facing hundreds of North Vietnamese soldiers (NVA) and completely surrounded, Walton called in two extraction helicopters.
The first helicopter, piloted by South Vietnamese Captain Thinh Dinh, touched down and picked up members of the team, some of whom Walton personally carried. The enemy soldiers were now sprinting to prevent their escape. Bullets clanged off the chopper and whizzed by their bodies. A second helicopter was needed to get them all out, but realizing how dire the situation had turned, the first helicopter sat back down and picked up the entire team. Their weight was too much, and they barely managed to climb over the treetops. Walton’s determination to get his teammates out of harm’s way earned him the Silver Star, the nation’s third highest award for valor.
During a poker game on the night they returned to base, one of his teammates noticed that the skin on Walton’s wrist was burnt. It was evidence of just how accurate the NVA gunfire was. Walton, Meyer, and his teammates enjoyed poker, Scrabble, and other games that require thought. They spoke about their goals and the dreams they hoped to accomplish when they returned home. Walton’s was a life of adventure.
Meyer shares how Walton had inspirations to travel domestically on a motorcycle and to Mexico, Central, and South America by plane. He earned his pilot’s license and started his own business crop-dusting cotton fields in Texas and Arizona. Crop-dusting provided Walton a new challenge that helped his transition after Vietnam. His aerial theatrics featured ingenuity, too — Walton co-founded the company Satloc in 1999, which pioneered the use of GPS applications in agricultural crop-dusting. He also served as a company pilot for his family business.
John Walton, far right, is shown in uniform.
(Photo courtesy of John Stryker Meyer.)
It seemed Walton was always searching for his next greatest thrill. He briefly owned a sailing company called Marine Corsair in San Diego, and he regularly traveled to Durango, Colorado, for outdoor activities such as mountain biking, skiing, and skydiving. As Walmart’s success climbed, so too did Walton’s wealth. At one point, he was the 11th richest man in the world, with an estimated .2 billion net worth. However, despite the amount of money he made, he always stayed true to his modest roots. Meyer recalled a breakfast the pair had in Oceanside, California, and Walton arrived in a small Toyota hybrid.
John T. Walton died on June 27, 2005, when his custom-built CGS Aviation Hawk Arrow plane crashed in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. He was 58 years old. An investigation determined that loose flight control components were the cause of the fatal accident. Walton left behind a wife, Christy, and son, Lukas.
Though Walton’s name will always be immediately recognized as the heir to the Walmart empire, his legacy is also inextricably tied to MACV-SOG. Two years before his untimely death, Walton chartered his private jet to pick up the family of Thinh Dinh, the South Vietnamese pilot with whom he served decades prior. They reunited in Las Vegas, never forgetting the lasting bonds forged in war.
Embedded With Special Forces in Afghanistan | Part 2
To support the ongoing efforts to reduce the number of non-deployable soldiers, Army leaders released a new directive designed to encourage soldiers to reach deployable standards outlined in the directive.
If standards are not met within six months, a soldier could face separation.
Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley prepared the directive, which took effect Oct. 1, 2018.
Maj. Gen. Joseph Calloway, director of military personnel management, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, presented the new directive Nov. 15, 2018, in a media briefing at the Pentagon.
The number of soldiers in non-deployable status has been reduced from 121,000 (roughly 15 percent of the total force) to less than 60,000 this past year. In October 2018 alone, the Army posted a reduction of 7,000 non-deployable members.
Calloway said the separated members came from across the force, including unsatisfactory soldiers in the Army Reserve and National Guard and some who were pending separation.
The effort followed the release of a new directive by Defense Secretary James Mattis February 2018 to raise standards for deployable troops across the four military branches, improving readiness and lethality.
The directive highlights two distinctions: for the first time, the Army defines deployability plainly in written form. And the directive marks a culture change that encourages greater accountability among soldiers to maintain readiness and empower commanders.
Deployers from Headquarters Company, 89th Military Police Brigade, unload their equipment into their temporary lodging quarters at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, in support of Operation Faithful Patriot, Oct. 29, 2018.
(Photo by Senior Airman Alexandra Minor)
“The culture change is particularly important,” Calloway said. “We’re not only defining the deployability and the directive, it’s the first time we’ve ever put on paper what constitutes deployability.”
The directive enables commanders to closely examine non-deployable soldiers on a case-by-case basis.
“The first actions that senior leaders are taking is to ensure commanders understand their authorities; how to use them and that they are supported by senior leadership,” said Diane Randon, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs.
To be certified as deployable, Soldiers must be:
legally, administratively and medically cleared for employment in any environment;
able to operate in harsh environments or areas with extreme temperatures;
able to carry and employ an assigned weapon;
able to execute the Army’s warrior tasks;
able to operate their duties while donning protective equipment such as body armor, helmets, eye protection gloves and chemical or biological equipment.
Finally, soldiers must pass the physical fitness test or be able to meet the physical demands of a specific deployment.
Soldiers who do not meet the standards of the new criteria, or soldiers who become permanently non-deployable after the date of the new directive, will be considered unqualified to serve in any military branch. Soldiers who remain in non-deployable status because of administrative reasons have six months to meet the requirements or face separation.
Calloway noted that the new directive does not apply to all of the remaining 60,000, including those who remain in non-deployable status due to medical reasons. The general estimated about 70-80 percent of the 60,000 remain non-deployable for medical reasons, and another portion for legal reasons.
Wounded warriors who have continued active duty and those on certain types of medical profiles will not be subject to the new directive. Only commanders at the O-6 level and above in a soldier’s chain of command can waive one or more of the six requirements.
Exemptions to the requirements include ex-prisoners of war who were deferred from serving in a country where they were held captive, trainees or cadets who have not completed initial entry training, and Soldiers who are temporarily non-deployable because they received a compassionate reassignment or stabilization to move them closer to an ill family member.
To help soldiers meet deployability standards, Calloway said, the service already has measures in place to reduce non-deployables and injured soldiers beginning in basic training.
U.S. Army recruits practice patrol tactics while marching during U.S. Army basic training at Fort Jackson.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller)
Soldiers must meet physical and psychological standards based on their desired career fields. The Army has also began to implement holistic health and fitness measures in its training.
“You can never get 100 percent on [reducing the number of non-deployables],” Calloway said. “But the goal is … to get it as low as possible.”
In the past, Calloway said Army leaders used a conservative approach to reporting non-deployables. By upholding stricter standards and holding Soldiers accountable to maintain qualifications for deployability will not only change culture but raise morale and enthusiasm to uphold standards.
In recent selection boards for officers competing to be battalion and brigade commanders, candidates were required to certify that they are deployable and had to pass a physical fitness test. Randon hopes soldiers will see the increased standards at those levels of command as motivation.
“It really is a mindset of inspiring and motivating soldiers to be accountable and to be classified as deployable,” she said.